The Ocean Fights Back in ‘Ocean Filibuster’ at the American Repertory Theater
March 9, 2022

Have you ever wondered… what would happen if the Ocean got so fed up with humanity’s shenanigans that it took a corporeal form and made a plea to the Global Federation of Humans on Earth? You are not alone! Ocean Filibuster, created by the Obie Award-winning company PearlDamour, tackles this very question at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) in Cambridge, MA.

Mr. Majority (of the aforementioned Global Federation), played by the dazzling Jennifer Kidwell, introduces the ‘End of Ocean Bill,’ proposing to siphon the ocean into outer space after rising seas and storm surges have rendered much of the world uninhabitable. The Ocean, also played by Kidwell, appeals against the bill by filibustering for 15 hours – or continuously arguing against the bill – in order to block it.

Bow Seat student art is exhibited in the lobby of the A.R.T. during the run of Ocean Filibuster.

Bow Seat partnered with the A.R.T. to showcase student artwork from our annual Ocean Awareness Contest alongside Ocean Filibuster. Twenty-four student pieces are exhibited in the Theater lobby for visitors to peruse before or after the show. The art examines human relationships with the ocean and calls for us to listen to nature. Like the show, this artwork raises awareness of critical environmental issues, transforming concepts that are often met with apathy, disbelief, or resistance into an empathetic experience that taps into our emotions and builds a collective consciousness.

The Ocean and the Ocean Choir on stage at Ocean Filibuster.

O and the Ocean Choir filibuster to block the ‘End of Ocean Bill.’ Photo by Maggie Hall.

The show itself is stunningly weird, poignant, and encompasses a range of ocean issues. The Ocean (or O) confronts so many facets of human impacts on the ocean – sharing the perspectives of the animals that call O home, highlighting environmental racism in the ‘End of Ocean Bill,’ and appealing to human’s appreciation of natural beauty. At one point, O and the Ocean Choir sing of whales in a musical round, but interject and overlap each line with mentions of boats and jet skis. The overall effect is a beautiful, but jumbled, song that captures the impact of noise pollution on whale communication.

The show was not constrained to the confines of the stage. In addition to Bow Seat art, interactive stations were set up throughout the lobby during the intermission. An augmented reality feature, downloaded on a smartphone, transported participants to the bottom of the ocean to experience a whale fall. A series of tubes and Erlenmeyer flasks trace a single breath from a Haida Oarsman in 1853 to Ocean Filibuster Director Katie Pearl in 2022. The interactive intermission pushed the audience out of our passive spectator roles and invited us to intermingle and participate in the experience.

A series of tubes and flasks track a single breath across space and time.

‘Breath’ traces a single breath from 1853 to modern day. Photo by Maggie Hall.

Ocean Filibuster takes the viewer on a roller coaster of emotions – from crying for a yeti crab to laughing with a drag queen cod who is asking for viewers to sign a petition from the Conservation Law Foundation to protect their breeding grounds at Cashes Ledge. The show uses projections to transport audiences to the deep sea lair of the stoplight loosejaw and the microscopic world of phytoplankton. It is an incredibly unique, visually alluring show, juggling many aspects of the climate crisis and synthesizing them into an immersive and engaging story.

Ocean Filibuster runs in person at the A.R.T. until March 13. Virtual, on-demand performances are available for pre-order now and run until March 27.

Featured photo by Maggie Hall.

Student Art featured at the American Repertory Theater.
Share News

The Ocean Fights Back in ‘Ocean Filibuster’ at the American Repertory Theater

Leave a Comment